Multidrug resistance (MDR) is often attributed to the over-expression of P-glycoprotein (P-gp), which prevents the accumulation of anticancer drugs within cells by virtue of its active drug efflux capacity. We have previously described the intercellular transfer of P-gp via extracellular vesicles (EVs) and proposed the involvement of a unique protein complex in regulating this process. In this paper, we investigate the role of these mediators in the regulation of P-gp functionality and hence the acquisition of MDR following cell to cell transfer. By sequentially silencing the FERM domain-binding proteins, Ezrin, Radixin and Moesin (ERM), as well as CD44, which we also report a selective packaging in breast cancer derived EVs, we have established a role for these proteins, in particular Radixin and CD44, in influencing the P-gp-mediated MDR in whole cells. We also report for the first time the role of ERM proteins in the vesicular transfer of functional P-gp. Specifically, we demonstrate that intercellular membrane insertion is dependent on Ezrin and Moesin, whilst P-gp functionality is governed by the integrity of all ERM proteins in the recipient cell. This study identifies these candidate proteins as potential new therapeutic targets in circumventing MDR clinically.
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